NSW corruption watchdog recommends charges against ex-MP Daryl Maguire and four councillors

The NSW corruption watchdog has referred former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire for possible criminal charges for giving false evidence during a long-running inquiry into serious corruption within Canterbury council.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption has released its findings from its Operation Dasha inquiry into the council’s planning processes, recommending the Director of Public Prosecution consider charges against the former Wagga Wagga MP and four former members of council.

Maguire, who was last year revealed as the secret boyfriend of the NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, faces further possible findings as a result of a separate corruption inquiry, Operation Keppel, which began as a result of Operation Dasha phone taps.

The phone taps during the second inquiry exposed his secret close personal relationship with Berejiklian. It recorded Maguire talking about several business deals, raising questions about what the premier knew of his dealings.

Operation Keppel is examining allegations including that Maguire attempted to use his position as a parliamentarian to secure property deals for companies he was representing, failed to disclose income on his parliamentary disclosure and ran a business from his parliamentary office. That inquiry is ongoing.

Berejiklian has denied that she was aware of the full extent of Maguire’s activities, and that she did anything to assist his business. Nonetheless she has faced intense scrutiny in parliament about her relationship with him.

The Operation Dasha report deals mainly with figures in Canterbury council.

Icac has found former Canterbury councillors Michael Hawatt and Pierre Azzi, and then director of city planning Spiro Stavis, engaged in serious corrupt conduct by dishonestly and partially exercising their official functions through misusing their positions in relation to planning proposals and applications at the council.

The report also found that the council’s former general manager, Jim Montague, engaged in serious corrupt conduct by appointing Stavis as director of city planning at the council.

Although Montague believed Stavis was not the most meritorious candidate for the position, he improperly allowed himself to be influenced by pressure from Hawatt and Azzi, Icac found.

The serious corrupt conduct findings against Hawatt and Azzi relate to activities that occurred between 2014 and 2016. They included applying improper pressure on Montague to appoint Stavis to the director city planning position, and showing Stavis the job interview questions in advance to help him secure that role so that they would be able to influence him in how he carried out its functions.

Icac also found that Hawatt and Azzi failed to disclose their relationships with developers when exercising their official functions to vote in favour of certain development applications and modifications to development consents.

It also found that Hawatt had misused his position as a councillor to act favourably in relation to development applications involving two properties in which his daughter and son-in-law had a pecuniary interest.

Icac has suggested that Hawatt and Azzi should face charges of blackmail under the NSW Crimes Act and that both men have misused their position of public office, a common law offence.

Stavis, the former director of city planning, has also been recommended for prosecution for misuse of public office.

During the course of Operation Dasha, telephone calls were intercepted between Maguire and Hawatt. Over the course of a number of telephone calls in May and June of 2016, Maguire and Hawatt discussed commissions they could make from brokering the sale of significant development sites owned by developer Charbel Demian or interests associated with Demian.

The proposed buyer in these transactions was the developer, Country Garden Australia Pty Limited, whose interests Maguire purported to be representing.

Ultimately, Country Garden Australia did not invest in Demian’s developments, and neither Hawatt nor Maguire made any money out of the arrangement.

However, as at May 2016, Maguire had an expectation that he would have shared a commission with Hawatt if they made a successful sale, payable by Demian.

Icac suggested the DPP consider charging Maguire with giving false evidence for denying that he approached Hawatt with a view to making money out of a business in 2016 and denying that he approached Hawatt on behalf of Country Garden Australia because he might gain a benefit.

“Given the quantity of admissible evidence, the Commission is of the opinion that the advice of the DPP should be sought with respect to the prosecution of Mr Maguire for offences under s87 of the ICAC Act in respect of his evidence,” ICAC said.

After giving evidence in 2018, Maguire resigned as parliamentary secretary, and later resigned from parliament.

But his relationship with the premier continued until it was sensationally revealed in Icac hearings last year. The premier was called to make a statement and later gave evidence after several phone taps revealed their secret relationship.

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